Birding Update January 2, 2012

First of all, happy new year to everyone!

After a long time away from writing updates for the website, I have come back to doing it. Although the spring is the premium migration season, the other seasons do not disappoint either. It may be a bit harder to find the birds, but at the right places, and with a little bit of luck, birding is still very good.

Weather conditions: morning very cold with 7 degrees Celsius, partly-cloudy to overcast, temperature reaching up to 17 degrees Celsius.

I went out with a friend today to do some birding in the Arava valley, but we first headed down to Eilat, to the ringing station. We arrived very early, and  today, nobody was there. We walked around a bit to see what was going on from  the various hides placed in the bird sanctuary. A Little Grebe was swimming in the pond, and a Little Egret was walking along the bank. A Black-headed Gull was overhead and a Common Tern too. We saw quite a number of Bluethroats along with the obligatory Yellow-vented Bulbuls and the House Sparrows.  The salt ponds south of the sanctuary held five Greater Flamingoes, along with a Great Egret. There was actually little going on at the sanctuary, and soon we were on our way.

We continued up the road and ended up at the Eilat sewage works at Km 19. Hundreds of Feral Doves were about at the cattle quarantine station, but our attention was directed at the pond of the sewage farm. After climbing up the embankment, we saw the goings-on. About 10 Spoonbills, 10 or so White Storks, five Black Storks, hundreds of Greater Cormorants, over 30 Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Great Egrets were on the embankments. A Marsh Harrier was hunting nearby. Swimming in the pond were several Pintails, well over 50 Shelducks and about 40 Shovelers. A similar number of Coots were about too, and a few White Wagtails.

At the Km 20 salt ponds there was less of a variety of birds about, but in quite large numbers. This time there must have been over 400 Greater Flamingoes, a number larger than in previous months. We had well over a hundred Shelducks, three Avocets, two female Pintails, plus the usual Black-winged Stilts, the Little Stints, the Redshanks, and at least one Dunlin.

While driving away from the salt ponds we came upon three Negev Gazelles (Gazella gazelle dorcas) feeding underneath an acacia tree. They were pretty unafraid of us as we approached with the car, but finally did move along.

We wanted to see whether the Syrian Serins that had been sighted several weeks earlier were still there at the Samar sewage ponds, but no such luck. We also tried for the Hoopoe Larks that I had seen at the Samar Dunes the previous week, but they were nowhere to be seen. The Samar Dunes are now at the center of a controversy, where a contractor has received permission to quarry the sand from these dunes for the construction industry. The agreements have been signed and the work has started, but there is still intense opposition to the project. The contractor has stated that he is willing to stop the work if his money is returned to him by the Israel Lands Authority. They of course refuse to budge, so now the last dunes in the Arava are being threatened, together with their unique wildlife.

We proceeded from there to the acacia grove at Km 51, near the British police station from the 1920′s and the Roman fort. We were looking for the Arabian Warbler that is resident there. Along the way, we found several Blackstarts, two Little Green Bee-eaters, a pair of Palestine Sunbirds, a Marsh Harrier hunting and a few Crested Larks. We also saw two Chiffchaffs, but the warbler kept evading us. It was always on the other side of the tree or bush as we approached. We gave up, went back to the car, and as we were going to leave, the Arabian Warbler presented itself beautifully, not 10 meters from the car.

Next came the Yotvata circular fields. As we drove up to the northern circular field, a White-fronted Goose flew up.  I had seen two White-fronted Geese six weeks earlier, and this one seems to be the one that was stuck around. It landed a hundred meters further and did not let itself be disturbed by some onlookers. We looked around for larks and pipits and did find some: Crested Larks were plentiful, as well as Water Pipits. We also saw a small flock of Northern Lapwings, a bird that is not very common here in the Arava.

The last stop was back on Lotan, where we visited the Constructed Wetlands. We saw a large number of Bluethroats and White Wagtails. A few Chiffchaffs were about, as well as several Graceful Prinias. Here we saw Water Pipits, Red-throated Pipits, Rock Martins and the obligatory Spur-winged Lapwing. We also saw a flock of about 25 Red-throated Pipits behind the dairy barn in the cow feed area.

All in all, it was a productive five hours of birding.

 

David Schoneveld

Licensed Tour Guide and Bird Guide

Kibbutz Lotan

 

 

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